No.3 Army of Darkness (1992)
Listen up, you primitive screwheads. I was torn as to which version of Army of Darkness I should cover: the theatrical release or the King Hazard!… and you, the other guy.’s cut. After some soul searching and realizing what a huge dork I am, I decided I just had to go with my gut instinct and cover the director’s cut for the entire two of you that are still reading this. Hi,
Ash has landed in medieval times via a time portal. He’s almost immediately put into slavery by Lord Arthur’s men who suspect him of being an agent for Duke Henry, whom Lord Arthur is at war with. You would really think this would be a nice change of pace for Ash, but his gun and modified chainsaw are confiscated right off the bat and soon enough he’s thrown into a dank pit to face off against a deadite. He is victorious and soon takes his boomstick and chainsaw back from Arthur’s cronies. We realize that the Ash of the third installment is a snarkier, grittier Ash, who spits out one-liners every five seconds. And they’re all awesome and infinitely quotable. Ash demands that Henry and his men be set free and is then lauded as a hero. After some initial friction with the sister of one of Arthur’s fallen knights, Sheila (Embeth Davitz), yet another romance blossoms for Ash. Ash is brooding, gruff, and witty; so naturally he has women fawning all him, even in 1300 AD.
A Wise Man tells Ash that the only way to return home is to retrieve the Necromonicon. Somewhere in this mix, Ash does another badass modification montage and gets a (dare I say it?) steampunk upgrade via a bitchin’ clockwork gauntlet. Ash starts searching for the Necromonicon in a haunted forest after getting in a little bye-bye nookie with fair maiden Sheila and is quickly pursued by unseen forces. He flees into a windmill where a strange mix of Three Stooges and Gulliver’s Travels escapades take place. He crashes into a mirror that shatters, rendering tiny little versions of Ash that all concede to torment him. Since this film was made in the days before computer effects were widely used (and probably a wee bit too expensive for this budget), the effect of tiny Ashes was created by several different men wearing a Bruce Campbell nose and chin prosthetic.
One of the little guys finally manages to jump down Ash’s throat quite literally, and we’re treated to a squirm-worthy shot of the thing wriggling around in Ash before he eventually becomes a life-size double of Ash. In the Army of Darkness director’s cut commentary, Bruce Campbell mentions that Bad Ash’s personality is just an impersation of how Sam Raimi treated him when they were in high school. Bad Ash is dispatched by way of boomstick and depending on the version of the movie you see, the lines vary between, “Good, bad, I’m the guy with the gun” or “I ain’t that good.” Ash sure knows how to make a compelling argument before he turns someone’s face into hamburger.
Arriving at the Necromonicon‘s location proves irritating for Ash who finds that there are three books instead of one and he must now weed out which is the real Book of the Dead. Ash grabs the real book and tries to say the magical phrase that will allow him to remove it, “Klaatu barada nikto” (a reference to sci-fi B-movie classic The Day The Earth Stood Still). Although Ash earlier told the Wise Man that he “got it,” he apparently didn’t get it; our anti-hero seems to have a vast amount of ADD that bites him in the ass in vital situations. He attempts to trick the book by coughing the word out and is unsuccessful, simply fleeing back to the castle with the book and incidentally creating a huge deadite uprising, including deadite Bad Ash, who creates the titular army.
Ash’s dick move of resurrecting all the deadites is made worse when he demands to be returned to his own time. Before he can skip out on all the havoc he’s caused, Sheila is captured by a flying deadite and then transformed. You’d think it would make Ash want to bail even more, but strangely enough, he rallies the reluctant human troops against the deadite army. Somehow Ash just happens to have some science textbooks in the trunk of his Olds, and uses this knowledge coupled with support from Duke Henry to a successful battle against the deadites. He even manages to save the girl this time.
Depending on which version you watch, you get two different endings: In the theatrical version, the ending cuts to Ash telling an S-Mart co-worker (Ted Raimi) about his adventures and how he could have been king. A female customer becomes possessed and Ash snaps into action, leaving the ending wide open for another sequel. In the director’s cut, Ash is given a potion and told to drink only a specific amount. Did our anti-hero pay attention? Once again, no; Ash sleeps for eons and ages in his Olds, which is backed into a desolate cave. When he awakens, it’s implied that the apocalypse has happened and he may well be the last man on Earth.
If any of you have the opportunity, I strongly recommend checking out the director’s cut, in case you hadn’t figured that much out yet. And if you’re like me (read: nerdy to the max), be sure to watch it with the commentary on. It will give you warm, dorky fuzzies. And who doesn’t like the sound of Bruce Campbell’s voice?
Two last things I’ll mention about the movie is that it has an amazing score done by none other than famed composer Danny Elfman (of Tim Burton fame) and was originally given an NC-17 rating for the slaying of a female deadite early in the film. Universal pushed for a PG-13, but Sam Raimi stuck to his guns and managed to get his R-rating pushed into theaters after numerous cuts – which unfortunately included much of the best material.
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